Finding the perfect Christmas Gift can be a challenge. Add a pandemic to the mix and it can become downright daunting. So, when the board members of Honor Flight Northeast Indiana deliberated how to show their appreciation to their fearless leader, President Dennis Covert, they landed on Paying It Forward.
Pay It Forward is a term with much history. The oldest, and perhaps most basic pattern of this concept, is found in the 1916 book In the Garden of Delight. Lily Hardy Hammond reflects, “I never repaid Great-aunt Letitia’s love to her, any more than she repaid her mother’s. You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”
In a letter penned by Benjamin Franklin dated April 25, 1784, “I do not pretend to give such a deed; I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money.”
An anonymous spokesman for Alcoholics Anonymous said in The Christian Science Monitor in 1944, “You can’t pay anyone back for what has happened to you, so you try to find someone you can pay forward.”
And finally, Jesus, taught in Matthew 18:21-35 that paying it forward is a requirement for those who have received God’s forgiveness as told in the parable about a man forgiven a huge debt who then refused to show consideration to a fellow who owed him money. Jesus summarized the story by saying, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”
We’ve all heard the stories of the person in the Starbucks line who bought for the car behind them, or anonymous meals purchased in restaurants and even special coins showing up in Salvation Army red kettles. Many of these become a “domino effect” that inspires the next person to buy or give.
For instance, a pay it forward in the drive through at Starbucks in St. Petersburg, Florida lasted over 11 hours. A chain reaction at McDonald’s in Scottsburg, Indiana went on for over 167 customers. Who wouldn’t have felt great participating in that streak?
That sparked the idea that rather than purchasing a materialistic gift for Dennis and his wife Charline, we would share some of the good deeds we carried out over the past year. What was amazing me was the reluctance of people to discuss what they’ve done for others. For most, it is something that comes naturally and they had to be convinced to talk about some of their giving actions.
The over 40 entries in the Pay It Forward Blessings book that we created were as diverse as Carter has pills. For example, Erin Floyd shared her involvement of fostering greyhounds on behalf of American Greyhound. Jana Powell spoke of her long-time support as an advocate and educator for the Alzheimer’s Association. Ben Clay has donated over 25 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross. The Linder family donates leftover produce from their huge garden to food banks.
Other board members and volunteer corps members made donations to groups such as the Vietnam Wall project on O’Day Road, the Allen County SPCA (the Coverts love their dogs!), the USO, Homebound Meals and Community Harvest. Some bought meals or gas for others or left huge tips for their servers. They created treat bags for their UPS and FedEx drivers and bought coffee for custodians struggling to keep buildings virus free.
Two turned the tables on the date of their birthdays with one buying coffee for all the customers patronizing Well Grounded Coffee House, while the other raised over $500 by asking that people donate to Honor Flight in celebration. Another consistently writes encouraging notes to residents at local nursing homes as her ministry, while many helped neighbors with everything from mowing, raking, shopping, repairs and more. Several support their church homes through volunteering.
And the list goes on and on.
Dennis was thrilled by the gift, stating in part in a thank you email “Charline and I could not have received a more meaningful gift. What I learned by reading the entries is that you are all donating and contributing to our community through countless other organizations and individual acts of kindness and sharing. Thank you for what you do, not only for Honor Flight Northeast Indiana, but to help others.”
He went on to say “In Honor Flight we talk about sacrifices during the pandemic. We had 16 million men and women in uniform during WWII. Some were fortunate to return home safely. Others were not so fortunate. Many then and now are missing Christmas as well other holidays while in service to our country. Keep the meaning of sacrifice in perspective and please remember veterans who served in our armed forces and those who continue to serve today.”
This year, I challenge YOU to Pay It Forward. Making a small gesture on your part may make a huge difference to someone else.